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Caries is one of the most common non-communicable diseases affecting mankind, and the WHO estimates that 60–90% of schoolchildren and nearly 100% of adults suffer from dental caries worldwide. The process begins at the tooth surfaces when simple dietary sugars are taken up by bacteria within an organic layer on the surface, commonly referred to as plaque but more correctly a biofilm. With each sugar intake, the bacteria in the biofilm convert sugar into acid that attacks the tooth surface, a process called demineralisation. If the process is allowed to continue over a period of time, the tooth is progressively destroyed, with accompanying pain, infection and loss of function. The most effective means of reducing the risk from the caries are reduction in the intake of dietary sugars and the use of fluoride, most conveniently in toothpaste, but also added at optimum levels in the water supply where practical and appropriate.
KeywordsDietary sugars Plaque bacteria Fluoride
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